By Aris Barkas / firstname.lastname@example.org
Basketball experienced a strange day at a pan-European level but it didn’t end up with a horrible disaster, at least not at the level that many were afraid. The damage is done and already well known on the administration level of the sport in Europe.
EuroLeague was not affected at all by national teams matches and despite the major absences of players from their national teams, none of Europe’s advanced “basketball” countries had a negative result with the exception of the typically self-defeating Russia and Croatia.
In the case of the Russians, there is an excuse after having been defeated by a feisty Bosnia on the road, while the Croats losing to the Netherlands can’t be considered such a big surprise if you take into account the self-destructive nature of the Balkan team. In both cases, however, the absences of the NBA and EuroLeague players were decisive.
The issue, therefore, focuses on the level of basketball the national teams’ games presented to the fans and whether those games were attractive to the general public. It’s obvious that the expectations de facto were low.
No one expected that teams with little continuity after practicing for three days would shine, most of them thinking wisely played in small gyms – very small in the case of Great Britain’s game versus Greece – and provincial cities addressing almost exclusively to the national sentiment of the fans. In Europe, there were no happenings like the 10.000 Argentinians who welcomed Scola to his homeland, or the 13.000 Chinese who attended the matchup with Hong Kong.
As the French newspaper “L’Equipe” wrote yesterday from the 56 NBA European players who were absent, 13 were the top scorers of their teams in the last Eurobasket. Of the 151 Europeans who compete in the Euroleague, only 13 were available yesterday, and countries like Spain and France had no one on their roster.
In the rest of the world, the first impression of the “windows” was encouraging. In Europe, it just turned out that it is not such a bad “necessary evil”. Can they help in the development of the sport? It’s difficult to answer this question because each case at a national level is different and it’s certain that they cannot help as much as matches involving the EuroLeague and the NBA stars. Everyone has a feeling that in many cases those are not the “real” national teams and EuroLeague games being held on the same day added to this impression.
A Greek or Spanish basketball fan was much more focused on the big game between Panathinaikos and Real Madrid than the contests of their national teams. In Spain, the game was decided to be broadcast at the last moment by “Be Mad TV”. Initially, Mediaset Espana which holds the national team television rights had announced that they will not televise the game due to “principal players missing”.
FIBA is obliged to think about the development of the sport at a global level and in Asia, South America and Africa the “windows” probably work. In Europe and the United States, the games at this point reminded more of preparation sparring than contests with real gravitas, even if the World Cup qualification will be decided by them.
Photo Credit: FIBA